Ola Miedzynska - SxTech

Interview#4: Bridging Deep Tech and the Internet of (Sex!) Things (Ola Miedzynska)

CEO and Founder of SxTech, the only conference where deep tech connects to the Internet of (Sex!) Things. Researcher in technology trends like decentralization, AI, VR, the blockchain, and biotech in relation to the Sex-Tech industry. Ola Miedzynska is committed to changing the way tech world communities perceive sex-tech by encouraging open discussions, running events, matchmaking founders and industry experts, therefore bridging collaboration opportunities in the SxTech conference. The first edition will take place on July 1st, 2019, in Berlin. Learn more about SxTech in this exclusive interview with Ola.

Ola Miedzynska - SxTech
Ola Miedzynska – Founder of SxTech

1. What is the sex-tech industry and what opportunities does it bring for the future of sex?

“By definition, sex-tech encapsulates technology, and technology-driven ventures, designed to enhance and disrupt human sexuality. The opportunities it brings expands from entertainment and pleasure – through to sexual education, and in turn, sexual health of men and women. Today we are dealing with the revolution of the Sex-Tech industry.

We are living in a time where the advancement in one industry opens doors for new possibilities in another. The Sex-Tech industry is no different, and bold opportunities in the way we express ourselves sexually are becoming more and more apparent.”

2. What inspired you to create the SxTech conference?

“There were many inspirations. I was born in Poland, where women’s rights are often overlooked and ignored. Women’s autonomy is lacking – the right to make decisions regarding your own body; the right to be protected against sexual and physical violence, and also the right to express yourself sexually in a liberal manner regardless of one’s orientation or gender – these are void within the mainstream.
This absence of fundamental human rights sparked a fire within me, and I have been carrying this fire inside of me for several years.

Suddenly, in the world of technology – a male-dominated world, there began to emerge the first signs of revolutionary Sex-Tech companies! Following these companies, and researching their origins, I was strongly inspired by the women who were behind them. These strong, independent women who were designing a space for other women, creating narratives to better express the difficulties widely-experienced but never discussed openly. This discussion, in turn, began to dampen the stigma around female sexual independence – that women, too, also have the need for sexual entertainment, also watch and enjoy porn. In doing so, female health became a huge topic of conversation, and gradually, became a focus of companies hoping to fill this need.

It was incredibly inspiring for me, someone who for years has felt constricted due to the general situation of women in the world. We’ve seen that technology breaks down barriers, changes old systems and attitudes and contributes to widespread changes. So I decided to combine my many years’ worth of work experience in tech with my passion for Sex-Tech and the Fem-Tech Industry.”

3. How do you see the potential of cross-industry collaboration in sex-tech? Could you share some innovation examples inspired by applications from other industries?

“Innovation is a long process, which requires not only investment in the research but also open minds. Even though Sex-Tech and Fem-Tech may not yet be noticeable in contemporary society, and may not be financed in the same way as any other industry, there are more and more projects that are evidence for the change that is going to come. For instance, London-based women’s health startup Elvie helps women strengthen their pelvic floor. In April 2019 the company raised €37.5 million in the largest Fem-Tech funding round to date! Future Flora is another example, made by an incredible woman Giulia Tomasello suggesting an alternative: designing kits to enable women to home-grow sanitary pads to balance vaginal probiotic health. Future Flora is one such landmark project you can meet at SxTech conference!

4. From your perspective, what are the main barriers to innovation in sex-tech?

“Sex-Tech experiences unique struggles, unlike most industries. All the discomfort and close-mindedness that surrounds sex means a discussion is almost impossible with certain investors. Today, for example, I had lunch with a hugely successful CEO from a Berlin Fem-Tech startup who regularly hears, “We do not invest in single female founders projects”. Perhaps this is why the Fem-Tech industry is in dire need of shaking up?

Censorship is another barrier, on social media, and other marketing channels, it’s hard to reach the layman. Sex toy startup Lora DiCarlo is now accusing the Consumer Electronics Show of sexism, after organizers revoked an innovation award from its hands-free robotic massager, then banned the product for being “immoral”. The situation is becoming tedious.

There is something that worries people about sex, especially female sexual independence. For me, this discomfort is precisely why innovation must be supported. Without support, however, the infrastructure and ecosystem needed to fuel innovation are simply unattainable. In Sex-Tech, there is a profound absence of incubators, mentoring programs, friendly fundings for research or startup accelerators. This is why the SxTech conference is placing such emphasis on supporting Sex-Tech and Fem-Tech startups! We’re offering them access to our Investor Roundtable Zone, to have a chance to present their pitch deck to a broader audience and hone their business models.”

5. What about sex education? How do you see the impact of tech on supporting safer sex and demystifying taboos?

“From the perspective of a mother of a 12-year-old teenager, you cannot rely on the school education system to educate your child. I discuss sex with my child, teaching about sexuality and the basic rights of independence. Of course, I consider myself a super open-minded mum who openly educates her child about topics that some may shy away from, instead of choosing to place the responsibility for education on the school. Even in an open-minded city like Berlin, children’s school-taught sexual education leaves much to be desired. So our children are mostly educated through porn, and this leads to a host of issues.

Through technological advancements in AR and VR, education can be fluid and more open-ended. Overwhelmingly personal questions that all teenagers have, and that may have gone unanswered before, can be taught safely, without judgment, individually, and in greater detail than inside a class comprised of 1 embarrassed gym teacher and 20+ teenagers. I am convinced that VR and gamification is the future of sexual education, not just for children and teenagers, but also as a tool for sex therapy.”

6. How is technology improving the way we perceive sex and sexuality? To what extent does it actually improve the quality of our lives as individuals or in relationships?

“Whether you like it or not, the development of technology affects our romantic life, our perception of being in an intimate relationship or opportunities to develop our sexuality. We can take the best examples from the evolution of porn. From cheesy magazines and blurred VHS tapes to HD streaming, VR and teledildonics – pornography has changed massively over the past couple of decades. How does this that happen? One word, Broadband. The development and accessibility to smartphones mean porn is more accessible and consumable than ever. Last year, Pornhub said 61 percent of their visitors accessed the site via smartphone while 28 percent watched on a desktop. I refer to this example only to point out that something that was once difficult to attain, and was publicly stigmatized (renting VHS porn), is suddenly is in your pocket – for free and anonymously consumed!

Is technology changing our sexual models and desires? Not necessarily, but it’s definitely improving our access to such changes. Since dating apps moved to the mainstream, we no longer question their role in our lives. It’s like ordering pizza. Technology has made dating and finding sex easier, and less of a taboo, with boys and girls openly discussing casual dating with one another. Apps are just the beginning of the sex-tech revolution. What we are talking about at the Sx-Tech Conference is virtual encounters, 3D-printed customized vibrators, and perhaps in the future, robotic sexual partners.”

7. What are the most impactful technologies for better sex, and why?

“Since I am not a sexologist, I can’t really comment here. What I can say, however, is that since the condom was invented technology has played a role in safer and better sex. It’s the relative role of technology in our erotic lives that has been changing. Video streaming, sex chat, sexting, webcams, vibrators, pulsators, teledildonics, gamification, 3D virtual reality, interactions with the virtual world, robotic exoskeletons, and many available variations can be implemented to the classic sex act.

For me, the ice-breaking technology from Sex-Tech industry doesn’t come from the topics of pleasure. I think the most exciting subject is the future of female and male contraception. I’m always surprised at how this topic is overlooked! Contraception desperately needs innovation, but as we can see, in the mainstream, there are still no alternatives to female hormonal therapy at the moment! This is one such technology that can have a great impact on both male and female sexual health. We’ll be focussing a great deal on the future of contraception at SxTech.”

8. What is your favourite sex tech innovation?

“I wouldn’t call this my favourite topic, but it’s certainly one I find fascinating: Sex Robots. The speculation of robotics, in general, can cause anticipation and fear, I think due to the possibility that their existence could unravel the importance of human relationships. There is the world’s first “Robot Brothel” in Barcelona, which admittedly is more of a brothel using semi-mechanical dolls, than AI-powered robots – which makes a significant difference. This example appears many times during the discussion about the fact that robots replace humans – in this case, sex workers (which is also just a distant sci-fi vision).

So from one side, there is a common fear of being replaced that generates our instinct to oppose robotics. From the other hand, we display trust and faith in technology. I think everyone heard or saw the robot Sophia – designed by Hanson Robotics in 2016. They may also be surprised that she’s been granted Saudi Arabian citizenship! It was the first time a robot has been granted nationality – In a country where a woman experiences segregation! What does this say about us? This transformation is genuinely fascinating me, how the technology of tomorrow can set social standards.”

9. Can you share your life’s mission statement and how does SxTech help you to align with that purpose?

“You may be surprised, but I don’t belong to people professing universal life truths and singular life quests. In my life, however, many values are essential. I grew up in an atmosphere of DIY hardcore music, the scene of which carries with it, the value of equal rights, human rights and also the emancipation of women. I have always opposed any imbalances, including the inequalities that I observe in the world of technology, as inequalities in the roles of women and men. Apparently, female sexuality is not as worthy of attention as the male is, only recently this viewpoint began to change when the women themselves took charge and began to create their own sex tech projects.

With regards to financing, we know, however, male founders have a better chance than women. Not to mention women of color or nonbinary people. It reflects on the project that I create today and is incredibly important! 80% of the speakers and mentors of our conferences are women! Our hackathon mission statement reads: We encourage people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary people to apply! We believe that technology should aim to unify us all, and should be used for the benefit of humanity without racial or sexual distinctions and discriminations. We believe that technology has no gender, no sexuality and it should serve us all. Well, I do not know if this sounds like a mission, but it is undoubtedly our project value!”

10. Thank you for your time. Would you like to add something else?

“I want to add that the Sx Tech conference is the first of its kind. And it’s worth coming to Berlin to learn about the impact robotics, VR, AR, and contemporary sexual behaviours will have on our lives in the future! Check out our site for Early-Bird tickets, available only until the end of April and quickly running out! So I’d like to encourage you, dear reader, because there are not many of them left!

Thank you for the talk!”

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Sex-Tech goes beyond just entertainment, reaching sex education and health.
  • Close-mindedness and censorship are major barriers to innovate in Sex-Tech.
  • Technology enables easier access to explore our sexuality, as individuals or in relationships.
  • The future of male and female contraception calls for major innovation.
  • Sex-Tech should be encouraged by and created for all, beyond any racial or sexual discrimination.

About the SxTech Event:

It was really great to interview Ola, diving in the complexity and disruptive potential of the Sex-Tech industry. Are you an innovator yourself? Share your story with us, contact Innovation Walk here.

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